It was with intense interest that I read the expose on LD 2283, the “Expedited Wind Permitting Law,” by Naomi Schalit of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting. In October 2009, I learned of the law’s origin and was disturbed by the fact that it was rushed through the Legislature as an “emergency measure” in 15 short days, with no debate, and with not a single member of the Legislature voting against it.
This law fast-tracks industrial wind development in the high terrain regions of Maine – by eliminating citizens’ automatic right to a public hearing, by removing our ability to object to development based on scenic impact, and by allowing what I consider to be state-sanctioned bribery (couched as “tangible benefits” and “mitigation”) by industrial wind developers of individuals and entities who might be impacted by massive wind turbines on our iconic ridges. LD 2283 can be read in its entirety at: http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/bills_123rd/billtexts/SP090801.asp
I live in Lexington Township, which stands to be greatly impacted by LD 2283. Former Gov. Angus King and Rob Gardiner of Brunswick’s Independence Wind have submitted a permit application – to be reviewed under this new law – for a 48-turbine development at the gateway to the Bigelow Preserve and the Appalachian Trail. Local residents have also heard of plans to continue the line of industrial wind down through Lexington to Brighton, Mayfield, and beyond. In order to meet Gov. John Baldacci’s goal of 2,700 megawatts of land-based wind power by 2020, another 300 miles of Maine’s mountains will be sacrificed, as well.
Maine citizens weren’t consulted before this misguided and biased law was enacted. As an “emergency measure” we didn’t have time to make our objections known before it was implemented. What is now apparent is that the wind industry hugely influenced the crafting of this law. In a letter from Rob Gardiner to Alec Giffen, chairman of the Governor’s Task Force on Wind Power, Gardiner lists his recommendations for how to write a law which would give wind developers the advantage over Maine citizens, forestalling their objections to wind developments.
Gardiner states: “In my opinion, the biggest sticking point is visual impact. Under the standard of ‘fitting harmoniously into the environment,’ wind is at a serious disadvantage. Because it involves 250-foot high structures that are usually on high ridges, the visual impacts are significant.” (Gardiner’s own permit application states that the turbines destined for Highland stand more than 400 feet tall, creating a more serious “disadvantage” – and those visual impacts will be far, far more significant.)
“An immediate executive order followed by legislation that specifically removes the presumption of negative visual impact from wind farms would go a long way toward setting the stage for balanced regulatory review.”
“A second element of such executive order and legislation should be to declare that reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions is a public benefit, and that wind farms can make a significant contribution toward a more sensible energy mix for Maine. Therefore, any regulatory agency should accept these positions and not waste time receiving further evidence and debating them. To the extent that regulators are charged with balancing the benefits of any project against the negative impacts, these beneficial aspects should be ‘a given’ for wind farms.”
Further directions given to Giffen: “…wind farms ought not to be expected to help purchase conservation lands or do other types of mitigation. Wind farms ARE mitigation for our energy consumption habits and for the impacts of fossil fuel consumption.”
“I understand that preserving Maine’s ‘quality of place’ is an important goal for your task force. I fully accept that having wind farms everywhere might ruin that quality.”
“I recognize that LURC feels overwhelmed … This may need attention, but it is a short-term phenomenon. Don’t change the rules, provide the necessary resources. The Governor can do that … But creating a new agency or shifting responsibilities will, in actuality, make it harder for developers.” (Gardiner’s entire letter can be read at http://highlandmts.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/comments_rob_gardiner_120607.pdf)
Impartial experts are speaking out about the negligible ecological benefits of industrial wind. After two decades of experimentation around the globe, there’s been no significant reduction in carbon emissions. Electrical consumption is constant, but wind is undependable and intermittent; therefore, conventional electrical generators must be kept online to take up the slack when the wind doesn’t blow. Because of the extremely inefficient combustion from the modulating in-fill of natural gas backup for wind plants, it’s possible that we may actually be increasing overall fossil fuel use.
The wind industry has repeatedly told us that wind will get Maine off “foreign oil.” However, Maine does not use oil to generate electricity, but rather to heat our homes and power our automobiles – two applications that even John Kerry and Phil Bartlett acknowledge aren’t addressed by wind power.
To say that we’ll reduce our dependence on oil if we install wind turbines across Maine is misleading.
Ms. Schalit’s fact-based series is a wake-up call. In light of these revelations, Maine citizens whose lives have been turned upside down by this legislation are requesting an immediate moratorium on wind plant construction and a careful reexamination of LD 2283 by our Legislature.
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